Baby name consultation: To Canon or not to Canon for baby no. 3?

I know I said I’d be off the blog until the end of the week, but I forgot about my Monday consultation post! Enjoy! And be sure to check back in on Friday to read my Year in Review post!

Cassie and her husband are expecting their third baby, a little green bean (=gender unknown)! This wee babe joins big sisters:

Felicity Marie (“Her first name jumped out at my husband and me during the same Christmas Eve Mass when our priest prayed the Roman Canon. We loved that it meant happiness, and she’s lived up to that in so many ways in her four years. Marie is the middle name of my mother, my mother-in-law, and me. Felicity was also born in May, and we wanted to honor Mary since she was born in Mary’s month“)

Lucy Rose (“We decided that we loved another name from the Roman canon and Lucy was on our “short list” prior to her birth. We loved that it meant light also. We chose Rose for two reasons: she was due on August 23rd, the feast of St. Rose of Lima. I had always loved this saint since I was little and then I was lucky enough to travel to Lima for a college class and get to see where St. Rose spent her life. The second reason we picked it was because Lucy ended up being born on the feast of Our Lady of Knock. Mary is portrayed in this apparition with a single rose on her head, so we thought using Rose as her middle name also fit well for the day she was born“)

I love their girls’ names!! Gorgeous!! And I so enjoyed reading the reasons Cassie and her husband chose each of their names — it’s so cool that they were able to incorporate meaningful elements from the month and even day they were born!

Cassie writes,

As you can see, we really like using names related to the day a baby is born. For Baby #3, we are due on February 22nd. We don’t know if we’re having a boy or a girl. We can’t use the name Francis/Frances for a first name because that is a family name already used.

I would describe our style as strong, Catholic names that are pretty traditional but maybe not too out there. We do use nicknames often, but don’t choose names based on what the possible nicknames will be. We have obviously picked names from the Roman canon so far, but I’m not sure if we want to stick to that or not. Part of me thinks that if we ever want to break from that tradition, we should do it now with this next child so we don’t feel like we have to use that for all future children. We also seem to have middle names that are Marian head nods with our current children’s names; again we aren’t sure whether we will continue that or not

Here are names that are on my list:

  • James – my father’s name
  • Michael – my husband’s middle name and my father-in law’s first name; wouldn’t want to use this for a first name to avoid having the same name as my FIL
  • Augustine – my husband isn’t a huge fan
  • John or John Paul – Pope St. John Paul II is my husband’s Confirmation saint
  • Leo – my husband’s grandfather’s middle name
  • Joseph – my father-in-law’s middle name and it’s now the year of St. Joseph
  • William
  • Benedict
  • Maximilian
  • Thomas
  • Mary
  • Cecilia – she’s my Confirmation saint; but we’re not sure if this feels too much like an “old lady” name; my husband had a great-aunt named this so he’s not crazy about it
  • Agnes – also not sure if it’s too old feeling, but I have seen it coming back in Catholic circles
  • Clare

Great names on their list!

Ok, the first thing I want to address is the idea of continuing — or not — with names from the Roman Canon. I agree with Cassie’s thought that if they want to break with a naming pattern, doing it before three-in-a-row is probably the best, since I always think that three cements a pattern. However, there are so many common names that are included in the Canon that it’s very easy to come up with them without any connection to the Canon, and there are so many Saints that share names with other Saints that if they’d named their girls after St. Felicity of Rome (as opposed to the Canon’s St. Felicity of Carthage) and the Fatima visionary Servant of God Lucia dos Santos (as opposed to the Canon’s St. Lucy of Syracuse), their girls would technically have names that are mentioned in the Canon, but they wouldn’t actually be the names of Saints in the Canon. You know?

Also, I really don’t think there aren’t a whole lot of people who will hear Cassie’s children’s names and think, “Wow, they really stuck to the Canon!” I do totally understand, though, her own perspective as the namer, feeling like these connections are so obvious! It reminds me of my boys — I have seven and the first five have a biblical name as either their first or middle, which wasn’t necessarily on purpose, but then with no. 6, neither of the names we chose were biblical. We decided to go with them anyway, but I was even sort of self-conscious that we’d broken a very clear pattern after so many kids. But no one even noticed! It was absolutely not a thing for anyone else but me! And then for no. 7, we gave him a biblical first name! My one little guy (no. 6) is the only one with no biblical name! And no one but me has ever noticed! So anyway, if Cassie and her hubby chose Cecilia for this baby and then Clare for the next, I’d be amazed if anyone thought it was weird or obvious.

One more thing that can help: I would encourage Cassie and her hubs to focus on the fact that they gave their first two children “strong, Catholic names that are pretty traditional but maybe not too out there,” as Cassie described them, and leave it at that. That way they’ll be able to worry less about choosing or not choosing a name from the Canon — that can just be a coincidence that may or may not show up in their other children’s names.

(Can you tell I think a lot about this kind of stuff?? Haha!)

I would say all similar things about their usage of Marian middle names, especially because there were specific circumstances that led them to choose those two Marian names — Felicity being born during May and Lucy being born on the feast of Our Lady of Knock — so that can be their pattern: including a nod to the day/month/season of the baby’s birth as opposed to Our Lady specifically every time.

Before moving on to my new ideas, I thought I’d offer my thoughts on the names that are on their current list, in case they’re helpful:

  • James: Fantastic, classic, I love that it’s Cassie’s dad’s name, and it’s in the Canon (incidentally, this is a great example of liking a name for other reasons, and having its inclusion in the Canon be a coincidence)
  • Michael: Also wonderful, and I love it as a possible middle name
  • Augustine: I’d love to find a name that Cassie and her hubby both love, so since her husband isn’t a fan, I’d suggest shelving this one for now. I’m glad Cassie included it, though, because it gave me a good sense of her style!
  • John, John Paul: Both of these names are in the Canon, both of them more than once — there’s St. Paul the Apostle, St. John the Apostle, martyred brothers John and Paul, and St. John the Baptist. But then of course, there’s the non-Canon John Paul II! Doing something like John Paul would be a fun bridge between Canon names and non-Canon names, if that tradition was still worrying Cassie, since John and Paul are Canon names but John Paul is not a Canon Saint.
  • Leo: Leo is such a great name, and can work for a Feb. 22 baby because of Feb. 22 being the feast of the Chair of Peter and Leo being a papal name! (Also John Paul!)
  • Joseph: I love the Year of St. Joseph connection, I can’t wait to see how many Joseph-named babies there are!
  • William: Like James, Michael, John, and Joseph: one of those classic names that works with all different kinds of styles.
  • Benedict: While James, Michael, John, and Joseph are saintly without necessarily revealing one’s faith, names like Augustine, John Paul, and Benedict (and Felicity and Lucy) are more likely to, which I love
  • Maximilian: Ditto what I said for Benedict — I love having a mix of more familiar and more unfamiliar/heavy-hitting names in a family! It really opens up a lot of possibilities!
  • Thomas: Very handsome
  • Mary: Adding Mary to Felicity’s and Lucy’s names would loop in the James/Michael/John/Joseph/William/Thomas names nicely
  • Cecilia: I love Cecilia for this family! It’s lovely with big sisters Felicity and Lucy, and I love that she’s Cassie’s Confirmation Saint! As for being an “old lady name,” it’s more popular now (no. 153) than it’s ever been (it was no. 199 in 1900, 192 in 1903, 190 in 1904, and 197 in 1905 before dropping into the 200s in 1906, with its lowest points being between 1963 and 1990, and entering the 100s again at no. 181 in 2015, and continuing to climb). I don’t think it’ll climb too high, which puts it in the nice sweet spot of familiar but not overly popular. (For reference, it’s way more popular than Felicity [which is currently at its most popular at no. 361] and always has been, and is less popular than Lucy [currently no. 48], though Lucy had more of that strong “popular in the early part of the century, then not at all popular, then currently very popular” arc that, before it gets popular again, denotes an “old lady” name.) A possible way to have the saint with a different, possibly fresher-feeling name, is to consider the variant Cecily. They will want to consider that Cecilia’s a Canon name (though again, I wouldn’t let that influence them either way); also, a funny thing I noticed is that Felicity, Lucy, and Cecilia/Cecily are all C-heavy — is that awesome? Or will it feel like the Canon thing, where if they choose a C-heavy name for this baby, they’ll feel like they need to for all their children, or at least all their girls?
  • Agnes: It’s funny, but I would have thought of Agnes as having a more old-lady feel than Cecilia! And indeed, Agnes dropped out of the top 1000 in 1973 and hasn’t been back yet (though Cassie’s right that I’m seeing it more and more among Catholic families. Interestingly, the first “current” baby I ever saw it on was actress Elisabeth Shue’s daughter, whom she named Agnes Charles in 2006; after that, I was surprised that it was the name given to the baby of fictional character Elizabeth on Blacklist in 2016). So anyway, yes, it’s back mostly in Catholic circles but also in society in general, as all the “old lady” and “old man” names are currently en vogue! I also love that Agnes is associated with lambs (being so similar to Agnus Dei=Lamb of God), which makes for a nice Lenten tie-in via Jesus being the Sacrificial Lamb. I even saw once that someone considered the combo Agnes Daisy because it sounds like Agnus Dei!
  • Clare: Clare is lovely and timeless

Cassie and her hubby have a really great list of names! I can see all of them fitting in nicely as Felicity and Lucy’s little brother or sister.

Now on to my new ideas! You all know that I start each consultation by looking up the names the parents have already used and those they like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard (affiliate link) as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I did so for this family, and I also looked at the list of names for the Sorrowful Mysteries and Joyful Mysteries that I posted to the blog a while ago, since their baby is due right around/at the beginning of Lent and might also be born in the month of the Annunciation. Based on that, these are my new ideas:

Girl

(1) Sidony/Sidney

When Cassie said she’d like to have a nod to when the baby’s born in his or her name, I immediately thought of Sidony because of her due date. It’s one of my favorite namey discoveries! Check this out:

“[Sidony] was formerly used by Roman Catholics for girls born about the date of the Feast of the Winding Sheet (i.e., of Christ), more formally alluded to as ‘the Sacred Sendon’. Sendon or Sindon (from Latin sindon … ‘fine cloth’, ‘linen’) was used in Middle English for a fine cloth, especially one used as a shroud. The Sacred Sendon is supposed to be preserved at [Turin] … Sidonie is not uncommon in France, and the Irish Sidney is probably really Sidony.” (pp. 268-269, The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names [affiliate link] by E.G. Withycombe, 1977).

But wait, there’s more! The Feast of the Winding Sheet is celebrated on the day before Ash Wednesday — Ash Wednesday is on Feb. 17 in 2021, and a Feb. 16 birthday is not at all out of bounds for a baby due on Feb. 22!

(2) Catherine/Katherine/Katharine

Catherine is a style match for a bunch of the names on their list: James, John, William, Joseph, Thomas, Mary, and Cecilia! It’s a lovely name (if I do say so myself, as a Katherine 😊), and there are a bunch of Sts. C/Katherine to choose from. In fact, St. Katharine Drexel’s feast is March 3, if Cassie goes that long!

(3) Margaret or Magdalene

Like Catherine, Margaret is a match for almost all those same names, and like Catherine, there are so many wonderful Sts. Margaret. The Mag- part — especially Maggie as a nickname — made me think of Magdalene, which I thought might be an even better fit for Felicity and Lucy’s style, and I like the connection of St. Mary Magdalene to the end of Lent (being the first to see the Risen Christ).

(4) Anne/Anna/Anastasia/Susanna/Joanna

Anne, too, has the same style matches as Catherine and Margaret, so I had to include it anyway (and I love St. Anne!), but I also liked that the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus is celebrated in February (Feb. 2), which is when Anna and Simeon were given the gift of beholding the Messiah they’d waited so long for. Anna would be lovely for that reason! And since we’re talking about Anna names, I can’t not acknowledge that Anastasia is in the Canon.

I quite liked this comment a reader left on my Sorrowful Mysteries post, which I think is appropriate here in the “Anne/Anna” suggestion:

I am adding Susanna and Joanna since tradition would hold they were included as witnesses at the cross. Though not named in passion narrative, Luke, Mark, and Matthew all indicate “other women” who had ministered to Jesus who were there watching. Earlier in Luke’s gospel Susanna and Joanna are named as women who were followers of Jesus and who ministered to their (Jesus and disciple) needs. And Joanna is listed in Luke’s gospel as one of the women who took spices to the tomb and is recognized as Joanna the Myrrh Bearer in Orthodox tradition.”

For these reasons, both Susanna and Joanna would be nice nods to the liturgical season Cassie’s baby will mostly likely be born in!

(5) Beatrice/Beatrix

Beatrice is a style match for Agnes, and Beatrix is a match for Maximilian, so I thought there might be something there. Its meaning of “she who blesses, makes happy, delights” is a fantastic one, and is the reason I included it in my book of Marian names (not an affiliate link) — I’ve seen other families use this name in honor of Our Lady as well. Since Mary is in the Canon, using a Marian name that’s not Mary itself would be a cool way to link to their Canon girls and any non-Canon names they might bestow going forward.

(6) Josephine, or a Lily name

Josephine is a match for Cecilia, and I thought since it’s the Year of St. Joseph, maybe Cassie and her husband would like to consider it for a girl? Not only that, but St. Josephine Bakhita’s feast is Feb. 8, which is at Cassie’s 38-week mark, if I’m not mistaken. Could be a perfect two-for-one!

Going along with the St. Joseph idea, one of his symbols is a lily, and not only is Lillian a match for both August (standing in for Augustine, since it doesn’t have its own entry) and Clara (I looked up both Claire and Clara, since Clare doesn’t have its own entry), but this was a great comment on my post of Joyful Mysteries names (since the Annunciation is celebrated in March, I thought it might be a good inspiration):

Lily, Lillian, Liliana, Lila as Gabriel &/or Mary at the Annunciation is typically shown holding a lily. Or one is being passed by Gabriel to Mary. So beautiful.”

And that same reader pointed out that Susanna means “lily.”

One last thought in the “lily” vein is that Lily is a traditional nickname for Elizabeth, and Elizabeth joins Catherine, Margaret, and Anne as being a big match for many of the names Cassie and her hubby like. Maybe Elizabeth nicknamed Lily could be a perfect idea?

(7) Julia, Juliet

Finally, Julia is a match for James and John, and Juliet for Felicity, and St. Julia Rodzinska’s feast is on February 20 — Julia and Juliet are both such lovely options! I did a spotlight of them here.

Boy

(1) Gabriel

I already mentioned that the Annunciation was one inspiration for me when thinking of names for this family, since it’s celebrated in March, and their baby might be born in March. I thought Gabriel might be a great idea for them! It’s also in my book of Marian names because of the Annunciation, so it can be a nice way to continue their Marian theme, if they decide they’d like to.

(2) Charles

I’ve seen a lot of families use Charles in honor of JP2, since his birth name was Karol (the Polish for Charles), and if they used Charles for John Paul, then that would open up John for them to use for another boy.

(3) Barnaby/Barnabas

I’m really interested to see what Cassie and her hubs think of Barnaby or Barnabas! Barnaby is a style match for both Felicity and Benedict, isn’t that crazy?! And cool! And he’s included in the Canon as Barnabas, so if they wanted to continue their Canon theme, he might be perfect! Another way to continue their Canon theme without locking themselves in too much would be to use a Canon name in either the first OR middle spots — Barnaby and Barnabas seem like amazing middle name options to me, so unexpected! Especially if they paired it with something really familiar, like Michael Barnabas or Joseph Barnaby.

(4) Simon

Simon has that same sort of possibly British feel as Felicity and Benedict (and Lucy fits in with that nicely too), and it’s a specific match for Cecilia and Leo. It’s got two great connections for this family, I think: Simon Peter, which fits in with Cassie’s due date, and since Peter’s in the Canon, using Simon might be a better way to nod to him but move away from Canon names; and also Simon of Cyrene, which is specifically connected to Jesus’ Carrying of the Cross — a great figure and Lenten name.

(5) Thaddeus

Thaddeus is like Benedict and Maximilian — long and saintly. He’s also in the Canon, but I think he’s listed as Jude? So Thaddeus might be like Beatrice/Beatrix and Simon — a technical Canon Saint without using the actual name listed.

(6) Sebastian

Similar to Benedict, Maximilian, and Thaddeus, Sebastian has that nice length and weighty feel. It’s also specifically a style match for Felicity!

(7) Theodore

Theodore seems like a really great compromise of sorts between their James/John/Michael names and their Augustine/Benedict/Maximilian names — it’s got the length of the latter with the familiarity of the former. And such a great meaning: “gift of God”!

Those are all the ideas I have for Cassie and her husband based on style and liturgical season/feast days that I thought they were most likely to like, but I also wanted to offer a few more of the same that I wasn’t convinced they’d like enough to warrant their own entry above, but I wanted to at least mention them, just in case. Here are some from my Sorrowful and Joyful Mysteries posts:

Dolores: Spanish for “sorrows,” traditionally used for Our Lady of Sorrows (María de los Dolores) and here could refer to both her and to the Sorrowful Mysteries, or to the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows) — the name for the path in Jerusalem Jesus walked on his way to the Crucifixion.

Helen(a): She discovered the True Cross.

Veronica: she wiped Jesus’ Face during the Carrying of the Cross.

Isaiah or Zechariah: The Passion and death of Christ fulfilled the OT prophecies found in Isaiah and Zechariah.

And regarding feast days, I was excited to see that that the baby is due Feb. 22 — that feast day is one of the best: the Chair of St. Peter! Any of the papal names can be a nod to it, including but not limited to Peter, and also offbeat ideas like Clavis or Clavius or Claver (like St. Peter Claver) (from the Latin for “key,” like “keys of the kingdom”) or Roman (for Rome/Roman Catholic/the pope lives in Rome). Of course, the possibility of Cassie’s baby being born on his or her due date is small, I know, so here are a sampling of Saints with feast days between two weeks before and two weeks after her due date whose names I thought held promising inspiration (do note that because I looked through twenty-eight days’ worth of feasts, and each day has loads — major and minor — I’m only including ones here that jumped out at me. I would encourage Cassie — and any of you that this might be helpful for — to take a look through, in case I missed some that might be a better fit. I used the daily calendar on CatholicSaints.info.)

Feb 8

  • Jerome Emiliani (this makes me think of how St. JP2’s mom’s name was Emilia, and her cause for canonization is open!)
  • Josephine Bakhita
  • Our Lady of the Lily (a cool tie-in with lilies being a symbol of St. Joseph)

Feb 9

  • Our Lady of the Bells (maybe Isabel(la)? Because of Bells?)

Feb 10

  • Scholastica
  • Our Lady of the Dove (Jonah means “dove,” and Dove itself would be a sweet middle name, maybe. Also Paloma means “dove.” Also Jemima, which I LOVE, but I get that most people aren’t ready to try to bring it back)

Feb 11

  • Our Lady of Lourdes (I love both Lourdes and Bernadette as given names)

Feb 20

  • Amata of Assisi (Amata is such a pretty name — it means “beloved,” and is in my book of Marian names because of Our Lady’s title Mater Amata [beloved Mother])
  • Jacinta Marto (Lucy and Jacinta might be “too much Fatima”? But I love her, and the name)
  • Julia Rodzinska
  • Leo of Catania
  • Pietro of Treia (this is the Italian variant of Peter)

Feb 21

  • Peter Damian (I have a friend who named his son Peter Damian as a first+middle combo, I’ve always loved it)

Feb 22

  • Chair of St. Peter

Feb 25

  • Our Lady of Victory (Victoria is a possibility here)

March 2

  • Agnes of Prague

March 3

  • Katharine Drexel

March 4

  • Casimir of Poland
  • Adrian of Nicomedia

March 8

  • John of God

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother or sister of Felicity and Lucy?


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

14 thoughts on “Baby name consultation: To Canon or not to Canon for baby no. 3?

  1. I believe St. Agnes is in the Roman Cannon. My daughter is Agnes, and I toyed with Agnes Dawn as a nod to Agnus Dei.

    I love the name. Cecilia is not an old lady name to me, and I like it best for a girl in your family. For the boys, I like Sebastian best.

    Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the idea of Joseph for a boy. I would end my search right there. It sounds perfect with his sisters. I have a Clare, Katharine and a Magdalen so I lend my whole hearted support to those names. I find Cecilia pretty /s/ heavy on its own and with Felicity and Lucy as sisters I think I’d pass on it at least for the next child, but it is a lovely name.

    And I’m discussing this post with my 17 year old, Clare. And she likes Edward with their set. I thought it was a nice suggestion and brings out the slight British vibe of their daughters’ names.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Girl:
    With just Felicity and Lucy, I don’t think there’s an established theme right now. As far as anyone can tell, the theme could very much be names ending in Y. You could go on with Emily, Lily, Daisy… and it wouldn’t be weird. There’s not enough material to define the theme at this point.

    To me, what jumps to mind with those names are saint names with great meanings.
    So my ideas for a first name are:
    Anna (St. Anne, meaning grace)
    Clare (St. Clare, meaning bright)
    Jane (St. Joan of Arc, meaning God is gracious)
    Catherine (St. Catherine of Siena, meaning pure)

    For middle names, since you’ve been using names related to the birth month, I suggest:
    Violet (for Lent)
    Frances (for St. Frances of Rome, March 9th and a nod to St. Jacinta through her brother, Feb 20)
    Immaculee (for Our Lady of Lourdes, who said “I am the Immaculate Concepcion”, Feb 11)
    Emma (a nod the Emmanuel, for the Presentation)

    Favorite combos:
    Anna Immaculee
    Clare Frances
    Jane Frances or Jane Violet

    Boy:
    Peter Michael (for the Chair of St. Peter + dad’s middle name, just like Felicity got mom’s middle name = perfection!)

    Other ideas:
    Blaise Michael (St. Blaise, Feb 3)
    Benedict Michael (a nod to St. Scholastica through her brother, Feb 10)
    Joseph Michael (February is the month of the Holy Family, just like May is the month of Mary, so Joseph makes sense – also initials would be JM…)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When I first read the title of the post, I thought they were considering naming the baby Canon, which I actually like! But I love Simon for a boy for them. All the girls names are so great, they really can’t go wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love their style! I agree with Kate about the canon names. The ones they’ve used and are considering don’t seem to be extremely obvious references to the canon. Like, I might notice something if they used Agnes, but even then, I think they could easily name another child a non-canon name and have it blend fine!
    Now, it would probably be different if they were considering or had children named Perpetua, Cosmos, Linus, etc!
    Anyway! I think Cecilia would wear beautifully on a little girl, and If they love it, they should go for it! (My personal favorite for a girl for them is Clare. 😊)
    The only other ideas coming to me are Teresa, Magdalena (going off of Kate’s Magdalene) Caroline (for St JP2, if they want), and Nicholas. (Although, I almost don’t want to add to the boy names, their list is already so perfect!!)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think it’s a great idea to keep taking a name from the Canon for each kid, but if you deviate from that, like Kate says, it won’t be obvious to others (except the Catholic nerds lol).

    Cecelia and Agnes are both great ideas and they are in the Canon too. My 2yo’s middle is Agnes. I really like the Anastasia suggestion too. Anastasia comes from the Greek word for Resurrection, so could be good for a girl born in the Easter season or on a Sunday. (Even for a baby born during Lent, the resurrection can be looked forward to, right?)

    Even though St. Michael the Archangel isn’t in the Canon, he is invoked in the traditional form of the Confiteor, along with the Blessed Mother, John the Baptist, and Peter and Paul. So if you wanted to use Michael, that’s still a liturgical connection, and with the Blessed Mother mentioned in both places, her name kind of bridges names found in either of the two prayers.
    My daughters’ middles are Canon Saints (Marie and Agnes) and my sons’ middles are Confiteor saints (Michael and John).

    Liked by 1 person

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